When is an exhibition game more than an exhibition game?

How about when the pitcher you are starting against is from the same part of Arkansas as you, is a model for you, and now has become an acquaintance and occasional off-season workout partner?

These will be the circumstances of the "exhibition" that Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly will pitch Monday in Clearwater, Fla., when he starts against Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies.

"I'm excited about it," Smyly said Saturday. "It should be fun. I watched him growing up, and now we're pitching against each other."

It's the first time that Lee, 34, and Smyly, 23, will pitch against each other.

"I've always watched him, and we're both left-handed," Smyly said. "A lot of people say we pitch alike.

"He's fun to watch. I study what he does. ... Last year, I texted him that I was having a little trouble with my cutter, which is a really good pitch for him. He said, 'That is the last thing you should worry about. Just worry about throwing your fastball for strikes and where you want to throw it. Command your fastball on both sides of the plate, and the rest will follow.'